Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) is committed to helping improve health outcomes by increasing access to nutritious food in communities across Illinois. According to Feeding America®, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization, more than 1 million people in Illinois face hunger. In Sangamon County, the food-insecure population is about 22,000 people, or 11% of the population.
For that reason, BCBSIL joined with several community organizations in the Springfield area that also work to fight hunger in their communities:
- Addus Homecare
- Boys and Girls Club
- Contact Ministries
- National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
- Sangamon County Department of Public Health
- Springfield Housing Authority
- St. John’s Breadline
Throughout 2022, BCBSIL provided 1,750 food boxes and 200 turkeys at 11 Springfield-area events.
“Food insecurity in our community continues to rise as a result of the pandemic,” says Lynn Eck, development and marketing director at YMCA of Springfield. “We saw two big issues last year — access to food and transportation inequalities — so we started Pop-Up Produce to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to the community. With the help of BCBSIL, the program gained serious momentum last year. We were able to add another location and distribute 7,700 pounds of fresh fruit and produce to our most vulnerable community members.”
The YMCA also provided an opportunity for BCBSIL to help members and non-members by offering space and instructors for free weekly yoga and Zumba® classes recorded at our Blue Door Neighborhood Center℠ locations. Since the classes started in May, more than 100 people have attended. We also worked with the YMCA and Memorial Health to host a free clinic teaching people how to cook fresh vegetables and fruits on a budget.
“Whether our events attract 10 people or 500, we’re out there in the community where our members and employees live, work and play,” says Stephanie Peden-Fox, manager of BCBSIL Community Relations. “Health outcomes depend on more than access to medical care. People also need access to healthy food and fitness.”
BCBSIL depends on community partners to help reach its goal of promoting the health and wellness of its members and their communities.
“The staff at BCBSIL are always willing to listen to ideas, give good feedback and help execute events,” Eck says. “BCBSIL supported us this past year and we are so grateful to partner with them.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Illinois (BGCCIL) is another organization BCBSIL is proud to work with on initiatives, including food insecurity.
“Over the past several years, and most recently during the COVID-19 Pandemic, BCBSIL has hosted COVID- and flu-shot clinics at our locations, provided our families with nutritious food boxes, donated over 1,000 warm coats at our 22 locations and continuously supports the BGCCIL through its grant programs and sponsorship opportunities,” says Tiffany Mathis, BGCCIL CEO and executive director.
"The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Illinois recognizes that food insecurity continues to affect the entire Springfield community, especially our most vulnerable community members — youth and senior citizens,” Mathis says. “We worked with BCBSIL to ensure our families and the community at large have access to health care and nutritious food and snacks through our many community food drives and health fair events. BCBSIL and its team of professionals are the definition of what a mission-focused community partner and corporate sponsor should be, and we could not be more grateful for the generous support we received."
The Springfield Housing Authority sees many families struggling to pay bills, including rent and utilities, in addition to buying food.
“The importance of ensuring access to healthy food options is always important, however, it’s especially important during tough economic times,” says Latina Faulkner, executive assistant at the Springfield Housing Authority. “We’re very proud to have partnered with BCBSIL assisting and ensuring families have access to healthy food.”
Contact Ministries in Springfield serves the most vulnerable and traumatized people in society, including women and children.
“Springfield has many organizations that provide enough food for three to five days, which requires clients to visit multiple pantries in the same month,” says Stacy Coon, director of operations at Contact Ministries. “We’re thankful for corporate sponsors like BCBSIL. From the grant application process to the organization and delivery of food boxes for our Christmas giveaway, BCBSIL has always been one of the best organizations to work with.”
“The box of fresh foods handed out from Blue Cross and Blue Shield was great,” says Donna, a participant at one of the events. “We were shocked when we got home and opened the box. What a great variety of produce — all in prime condition!”
BCBSIL will continue to work with community partners in Springfield and across Illinois in 2023 as food insecurity persists. As we continue to schedule 2023 events, we’ve already committed 250 food boxes to the Springfield Kiwanis Kids Bash held at the Salvation Army in January and another 1,000 boxes at the Springfield back to school event in July. We’re also planning nutrition classes with Memorial Health focused around maternal, men’s and holiday health.
Learn more about our community outreach events in Springfield and throughout Illinois by following us on Facebook.